We’ve been lucky to avoid French Open spectator deaths, says top medic

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Spectators suffering heart attacks and strokes have been among the emergencies Daniel Boulanger has treated in his 20 years as part of the medical team at the French Open - but so far no patient has died on his watch.

Team head for the past decade, he says that perfect record is as much down to chance as skill.
“There are about 30,000 people in the stadium every day so that is the equivalent of a small provincial town,” he told Reuters in an interview in his office beneath the main Philippe Chatrier showcourt.

“Statistically we have been lucky. We are ready for all eventualities... But of course that is no guarantee. A fatal heart attack can happen anywhere.”

When an emergency does arise - a spectator collapsed on Philippe Chatrier during the spell of hot weather that accompanied the early part in the tournament - security staff and ushers alert the medical team and play is halted immediately.

That helps to ensure the patient is treated as quickly as possible.

“The procedures are very clear,” added the doctor, whose team do not deal with health issues affecting the players.

During the two-week tournament, Boulanger’s team of eight doctors and 10 nurses across three on-site medical stations will deal with about 1,500 mostly minor medical incidents.

The weather plays a role in how busy they are, as can the quality of the play.

“On days of extreme heat there is a bigger impact on our service because more people get sick,” he said.

“People can be so captivated (by the tennis) that they forget to take protective measures, using suncream and hats, exiting the stadium from time to time to go into the shade, and drinking plenty of water.”

And what about accident due to drunken behavior?

“That happens, yes,” Boulanger said. “But generally we find that the Roland Garros public is pretty well behaved.”

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